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04 June 2015

Time to tackle local poverty this Volunteer Week

Time to tackle local poverty this Volunteer Week

by Tosin Oyeniyi

On the TV, on the train and on the news; we're constantly confronted by images of poverty abroad. While it may have many different faces across the world, nearly a million people using foodbanks during the last government, so the UK is not exempt from its own form of lack.

The new survey released this week by the Evangelical Alliance, Good news for the poor?, shows this is a matter of great concern for evangelicals, with 97 per cent of respondents believing that the Bible teaches they should work for justice for the poor.

A further 86 per cent think those who do not help the poor will be judged harshly.

While it's hard to compare the situation here with the devastating lack of other parts of the world, Marianne Clough, the national PR manager for Christians Against Poverty, said: "Poverty looks like a parent who has been trying to keep up with payments to creditors but the shortfall means they skip meals to ensure the children are fed.

"Poverty looks like someone who is long-term unemployed, on a low income and have forgotten how to value their own abilities.

"Poverty looks like someone who can't live life to the full because they are continually feeding a habit, be that smoking, gambling, shopping."

This week is National Volunteer Week and CAP a charity based in the UK that helps to lift people out of debt and financial hardship, is celebrating this week all those who help the work they do. With CAP Debt Centres across the country, CAP is dependent on local church volunteers. to support clients as they pay off their debts.

The CAP Debt Helpline (0800 328 0006) is the first point of call for many needing help. The phone call is followed up with a home visit from a debt coach from their local centre. During the initial visit the client is listened to and prayed for and the CAP service is also explained.

CAP gives the client a pile of freepost envelopes so that when a bill arrives it can be posted to the CAP Head Office. Based in Bradford, the head office then contacts the companies that the client owes. Payment is negotiated with CAP before the best budget for the client is drawn to help get them out of debt.

The service, which is free, is available to anyone who needs help, regardless of their age, gender, faith and background.

But though it may be therapeutic to post bills away, sticking to the drawn up budget requires help and support. This is where volunteers are crucial.

Clients need, as Clough put it, "a good support team cheering them on all the way". With charities and organisations trying to encourage and recruit volunteers this week, here is Caitlin's story, a volunteer with CAP.

"I have been volunteering for nearly four years. It's about building links in the community with people I'd never have met - it's fantastic. Some people become a big part of your life. One of them was an old man who was the most reluctant [person] to the idea of God, but after nine months he became a Christian!

"I grew to love him;I went from never wanting to step inside his house again to it being the highlight of my week. My small group did a 60-minute makeover of his front room and absolutely transformed it. It was amazing - he couldn't believe what they had done for him. He said: 'You're my angels, I can't tell you how thankful I am,' but I replied 'I get far more from seeing you than I ever give!'"

Caitlin added: "Befriending is the opportunity to evangelise to people I wouldn't normally meet in everyday life. I meet plenty of mums with school-aged children, but the people I have met through befriending, I'd never have met without being involved in CAP."

CAP volunteers don't need a background in finance to get involved. Debt counselling is handled by the CAP Head Office, with anyone wanting to help trained by their local church centre.

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CAP is keen to work with the government in making effective policy changes that will help the most vulnerable people in society. Foodbanks dominated talks in the run-up to the general election and though the election is over the foodbanks remain.

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